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Inside guide to multiroom video

Some modern homes already have co axial cable fitted, but if not you can buy it from high street shops and specialist TV installation companies fairly cheaply.

Ideally the co-axial cable should be laid as discreetly as possible, either under the floorboards or under the carpet. If this isn't possible then you can run it along the skirting or inside special trunking.

If you only have one video source, such as a digital set-top box, to distribute to a second room then the only additional equipment you'll need is a remote control extender. This enables you to control a box that's, say, in the living room from a TV set in the bedroom.

Sky's Magic Eye (around £8) works by sending control signals along the co-axial cable. Alternatively, you can buy devices such as Marmitek's Powermids (£30) which convert infrared commands to radio signals that can travel wirelessly over much greater distances.

Multiple rooms, multiple sources

Want to watch different SkyDigital channels in up to four rooms? Then you'll need a special type of satellite set-up.

While the standard single tuner set-top box and dish enables you to pipe a single digital satellite channel around the house, you'll need multiple settop boxes, additional mirror viewing cards and a dish with four LNBs (Low Noise Blocks) on the end of it for multiroom.

Each additional mirror viewing card will cost £10 per room, plus at least £99 each for the additional Sky boxes. For more information visit Sky's website (www.sky.com/multiroom).

And while this is all very well for Sky, if you want additional video sources around the house you'll need even more equipment.

Typically, this involves buying a modulator for converting your baseband AV signals to suitable UHF frequencies and a distribution amplifier/splitter for sending the video signal to various displays around the house.

For example, ChannelPlus' 5545 4- channel modulator will set you back around £500 while its DA550 distribution amplifier/splitter is currently retailing for around £200.

Alternatively, you can buy the complete system (dubbed the 5588) from ChannelPlus together with IR emitters and receivers for around £900. All of the products can then be hidden away inside a cupboard.

Higher quality images Although the RF co-axial system is by far the most common means of distributing video around the house, it's far from ideal. Basic RF systems are susceptible to noise - especially from video senders and mains power - and the cable isn't best suited to larger cable runs over 50 metres.

While images on a 14-inch TV may seem fine, pictures can look very poor on the latest plasmas and LCD displays. To improve image quality you should always split the signal at the source (ie, DVD player, Sky box) and use a distribution amplifier.

If possible you should also consider using other forms of cabling, such as S-Video, component video and RGB (in ascending quality order). Many source components such as Sky set-top boxes and DVD players now feature RGB outputs in order to provide optimum picture quality.

Cat-5 Ethernet

Another high quality solution for video distribution is Cat-5 Ethernet cable (that's the same cable that's used in offices for computer networking).

Cat-5 is much more stable than wireless technologies and, unlike conventional co-axial cable, offers lossless picture quality over distances of up to 300 metres. Another advantage is that it can be used for displaying your PC applications (including internet access and email) via any flatscreen display.

Many new homes are pre-wired with Cat-5 cable while older homes are often equipped with Cat-5 as part of a refurbishment programme (usually this is carried out by specialist EDIA installers).

For £260, Keene Electronics (www.keene.co.uk) offers a Cat-5 blaster transmitter and master receiver that allows you to plug, say, a DVD player or satellite Digibox into a Cat 5 cable network via the Scart inputs.